On the mechanisms of colloidal self-assembly during spin-coating†
Spin-coating offers a facile fabrication route for the production of high quality colloidal crystals, which have potential as photonic band-gap materials. This paper presents the results of direct observations of the self-assembly of latex colloids during spin-coating through the use of stroboscopic microscopy. We have been able to identify several mechanisms by which self-assembly occurs, depending upon the dispersion properties, such as particle weight fraction, solvent volatility and viscosity. Through the use of stroboscopic microscopy we have directly observed ordering occurring due to high concentrations of colloid particles (where volatility is relatively low), resulting in the formation of regular close packed ordered particle arrays. Conversely when the system in spun-cast from a much more volatile solvent, highly disordered non-equilibrium arrangements of particles form. When spin-coating a low concentration, low volatility dispersion, ordering is dominated by the occurrence of capillary drying fronts, which drag the particles into ordered arrangements. At a volatility intermediate to that of water and ethanol, ordering occurring predominantly via shear forces. Finally when the volatility is increased beyond the shear ordering regime, excessive shear leads to the occurrence of drying fronts within the system and so again, capillary forces induce a large degree of order within the final film.